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E-mail upstart searches for Outlook defectors

Stata Labs adds calendar and Palm synchronization to its search-centric Bloomba e-mail software.

Software start-up Stata Labs on Monday released the first major revision of its Bloomba e-mail software, adding calendar features and the ability to swap data with Palm devices.

Stata unveiled the initial version of Bloomba about a year ago, positioning the software as an alternative to Microsoft's widespread Outlook for people who need to manage huge libraries of saved messages.

Instead of relying on folder structures and other tricks to organize saved messages, Bloomba has a built-in search engine that usually finds what the customer is looking for in a couple of seconds, Stata CEO Ron Brown said.

"The difference between Bloomba and other e-mail clients is that this is designed from the ground up around search," he said. "The typical customer for Bloomba has tens of thousands of messages in their in-box. They save everything for a variety of reasons...Some just can't hit the delete key."

Bloomba 2.0, available now, beefs up the software with a calendar application and new search functions. The "professional" version of the program adds support for synchronizing data with handheld computers running the Palm operating system and an enhanced calendar that allows users to swap appointment information via the Web. Bloomba Personal Edition sells for $60; the Professional Edition is $90.

Brown said the calendar and Palm synchronization additions answer the two biggest concerns customers had about the initial Bloomba release. "Those are areas that are pretty basic, and if you don't have it, people have to find something else," he said. "Some of our customers were running two e-mail clients side by side."

Brown declined to reveal sales figures but said Bloomba has attracted thousands of users, despite competing with a product most customers already have as part of Microsoft's Office package.

"Sure, Outlook is free if you have Office...and we charge for our product, but that hasn't been an obstacle," Brown said. "We thought it would be, but it's been the biggest nonissue of all our assumptions. People will pay for software that makes it easier for them to get their work done."